Column: We should be very worried

Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts
Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts
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There’s a triple whammy heading straight for us.

It’s the triple whammy of a lack of social care expenditure, NHS services deteriorating in response, and the redistribution of social care and NHS resources from the poorest to the wealthiest areas.

These whammies aren’t happening by chance, but because of the choices the Government are making.

Social care funding was slashed by £4.6 billion during the last Parliament. Spending on adult social care has dropped further since 2015, despite demand increasing with a rapidly ageing society.

For most councils with adult social care functions, it consumes more than 35 per cent of their total budget.

Last year, councils diverted £900 million from other services to maintain adult social care and have a projected £500m overspend this year.

The additional revenue from the 2 per cent council tax precept in 2015/16 did not even meet the additional cost of the Living Wage changes .

The number of over-65s receiving social care from local councils has fallen by a quarter – more than 400,000 mainly elderly people – since 2010 .Three-quarters of people who apply for social care are now being turned away. Over the same period, 1,500 care homes have closed – almost one in 10 of the total.

This is hitting the poorest areas hardest. Since 2010, social care spending has fallen by £65 per person in the most deprived areas like South Yorkshire, but risen by £28 per person in the wealthiest areas.

In Sheffield, we are very lucky to have some of the best-performing health and hospital services in the country. They have consistently done well against all performance indicators and consistently achieved that within budget. But, the latest statistics and forecasts should worry us all. For instance, in the first half of 2013, just 6 per cent of people waited more than four hours in A&E in Sheffield; this year it is 20 per cent. And we haven’t even got to winter.

Nationally and locally, there are longer waits to see a GP, hospital beds are full and a £2.45bn deficit in the NHS – the worst on record.

“Bedblocking” – where people are stranded on hospital wards because there is no social care available for them when they leave – stands at record levels, costing hospitals £820 million a year. In September, we saw the highest number of delayed discharge days since records began. There has also been an 18 per cent increase in A&E admissions of elderly people since 2010.

I have been highlighting this problem for more than 12 months. In the last few weeks, every independent commentator, including the government’s Care Quality Commission, has been shouting about the scale of the problem.

But, in the Autumn Statement, the Chancellor said not a word. It was both extraordinary and disgraceful.